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RC 104 En sourdine (“Calmes dans le demi-jour”)

text source

Paul Verlaine, Fêtes galantes. Nouvelle édition (Paris: Vanier 1891), 53-54

dedicatees

recordings

  • Anniversary Edition 6 Et'cetera KTC 1435 CD6

publications

  • Complete Songs for Solo Voice and Piano Vol. 4 Donemus / Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds 29743139
  • Diepenbrock Album B/M Vol. I

  • En sourdine (“Calmes dans le demi-jour”)
  • Verlaine, Paul
  • mezzo soprano and piano
  • 1910-05-21 00:00:00.0 - 1910-05-23 00:00:00.0
  • duration 3:55

En sourdine (Muted) for mezzo-soprano and piano on a text by Paul Verlaine occupies a unique place in Diepenbrock’s oeuvre as it is a fairly strict copy of an existing model: the eponymous song by Debussy from 1891. Diepenbrock composed En sourdine in three days (21-23 May 1910) as a birthday present for his friend Johanna Jongkindt, who was a young, dynamic and exceptionally musical woman (she was a skilled pianist and often made copies of his compositions). Ever since the composer had changed his opinion of his French contemporary, they frequently talked and corresponded about the influence of Debussy’s music on Diepenbrock’s musical ideas. …more >

En sourdine (incipit)


En sourdine (Muted) for mezzo-soprano and piano on a text by Paul Verlaine occupies a unique place in Diepenbrock’s oeuvre as it is a fairly strict copy of an existing model: the eponymous song by Debussy from 1891. Diepenbrock composed En sourdine in three days (21-23 May 1910) as a birthday present for his friend Johanna Jongkindt, who was a young, dynamic and exceptionally musical woman (she was a skilled pianist and often made copies of his compositions). Ever since the composer had changed his opinion of his French contemporary, they frequently talked and corresponded about the influence of Debussy’s music on Diepenbrock’s musical ideas.

In July 1909 he admitted to Johanna that he considered Debussy’s first songs of his Fêtes galantes (Gallant Festivities) very beautiful and refined, although it is only touch and go, adding: But one cannot stick it out for very long with such weak music. (BD VI:128) In January 1910 Diepenbrock purchased the score of Pelléas et Mélisande for self-study. When attending the performance in Brussels of 1907 he felt, besides admiration for several passages, primarily dislike for its lack of melodiousness and the monotonous orchestral sound. (BD V:356) To ‘prove’ that he now understood and could apply Debussy’s stylistic accomplishments, Diepenbrock composed En sourdine, using the main ingredients of Debussy’s song.

By setting this poem by Verlaine – an evocative sketch of the rapturous bliss of being together with one’s lover on an afternoon spent in a dreamy, tranquil sensuality and an attempt to maintain that joy when evening falls and the nightingale starts to sing – to music, Diepenbrock expressed his feelings for the woman with whom he was to start an affair two weeks later, while he was staying with her in Zeist from Friday 10 to Saturday 11 June.

Stylistic copy

Diepenbrock expanded the half-diminished seventh chord e#-g#-b-d with which Debussy opened his composition, into a dominant ninth chord by adding a c-sharp under the chord which is repeated many times in the course of the piece. The two top notes are cornerstones of a melody in the piano that depicts the poem’s languid atmosphere with its small range and triplet movement. The voice recites the first lines of text quasi parlando on g# and b, accompanied by an E major triad to which the triplet melody adds in turn a major sixth and a minor and major seventh; this element forms a constant harmonic counterpart to the dominant ninth chord on c#.

Diepenbrock’s vocal part continues to have the same simplicity that characterises Debussy’s melodies. But unlike the Frenchman, who right from the start evokes the song of the nightingale with a syncopated note repetition in a relatively high register, Diepenbrock saves this element for the musical setting of the last strophe. In his composition the birdsong does not appear until after the word “soir” (evening); at first timidly and shyly with four times a high b; after the following line a bit more explicitly with an added upward ‘whirl’, then (on the line after that) spun out longer, ascending from b2 to d#3 and accelerating with a quintuplet and finally culminating in a kind of ecstatic warbling. Diepenbrock concludes with an undulating triplet melody in the piano and a V-I cadence on F-sharp major.

The dynamics of the song range from ppp to p. There is no indication how loud the crescendo of the upward line on “Fondons nos âmes, nos coeurs / Et nos sens extasiés” (Let our hearts, our souls blend / And our ecstatic senses, mm. 13-14), to be played poco agitato, should end, but the dolce that immediately follows suggests that the intended increase is small and is only to lead to a brief mf. This is the loudest dynamic mark that occurs in Debussy’s song, where it also lasts only half a measure.

En sourdine is not only meant as a love song – to Johanna Diepenbrock referred to it as your song of the Nightingale (BD VIII:54) – but also as musical amusement. This stylistic copy, unique in his oeuvre, was so much connected with the intimate communication with his lover, that Diepenbrock never allowed the song to be performed in public; not even when the mezzo-soprano Ilona Durigo (1881-1943) showed an interest in it. (BD VII:280) Nevertheless, this does not affect the artistic merits of this miniature, the fifth and last song on a poem by Verlaine that Diepenbrock was to complete.

Ton Braas



En sourdine

Calmes dans le demi-jour
Que les branches hautes font,
Pénétrons bien notre amour
De ce silence profond.

Fondons nos âmes, nos coeurs
Et nos sens extasiés,
Parmi les vagues langueurs
Des pins et des arbousiers.

Ferme tes yeux à demi,
Croise tes bras sur ton sein,
Et de ton coeur endormi
Chasse à jamais tout dessein.

Laissons-nous persuader
Au souffle berceur et doux
Qui vient à tes pieds rider
Les ondes de gazon roux.

Et quand, solennel, le soir
Des chênes noirs tombera,
Voix de notre désespoir,
Le rossignol chantera.

 

 


  • B-8(1) En sourdine (“Calmes dans le demi-jour”)

    • 1
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    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
    • 8
    • 9

    B-8(1) with dedication and dated on the last page gecomponeerd voor den 28’ verjaardag van mijne lieve Jo (23 Mei 1910)

    • 1910-05-23 00:00:00.0
    • dedication: gecomponeerd voor den 28’ verjaardag van mijne lieve Jo
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: 9
  • A-88 En sourdine (“Calmes dans le demi-jour”)

    copy A-88

    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • B-11(5) En sourdine (“Calmes dans le demi-jour”)

    semi-autograph B-11(5)

    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown
  • B-7(1) En sourdine (“Calmes dans le demi-jour”)

    semi-autograph B-7(1) copied by Johanna Jongkindt and dated on the first page A Diepenbrock 23 Mei 1910

    • 1910-05-23 00:00:00.0
    • location: Diepenbrock Archief Laren
    • pages: unknown

  • click to enlarge

    Anniversary Edition 6

    cd Et'cetera KTC 1435 CD6
    Alexander, Roberta ♦ Jansen, Rudolf ♦ Nes, Jard van ♦ Holl, Robert ♦ Prégardien, Christoph ♦ Pfeiler, Christa ♦ Doeselaar, Leo van ♦ McFadden, Claron ♦ Ameling, Elly ♦ Meer, Richte van der ♦ Baldwin, Dalton

    Tracks: 1 = RC 79; 2 = RC 68; 3 = RC 117; 4 = 97; 5 = RC 132; 6 = RC 104; 7 = RC 111; 8 = RC 43; 9 = RC 99; 10 = RC 138; 11 = RC 137; 12 = RC 4; 13 = RC 15; 14 = RC 14; 15 = RC 13; 16 = RC 51

  • Complete Songs for Solo Voice and Piano Vol. 4

    1993 Donemus / Alphons Diepenbrock Fonds Braas, Ton
  • Diepenbrock Album B/M Vol. I

    1952 Reeser, Eduard